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State creates silica sand website (08/21/2013)
By Sarah Squires

A website has been created for citizens to track the work of several state agencies preparing rules and management guidelines for the silica sand industry.

The website, silicasand.mn.gov, includes links to each of the state agencies currently working on the silica sand provisions: the Environmental Quality Board (EQB), the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), the Minnesota Department of Transportation (Mn/DOT), and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA).

Recent legislation has compelled the EQB, DNR, and PCA to create rules to govern the silica sand industry, and the other agencies included on the new website are also working closely with industry issues.

Rules and guidelines

One of the new regulations will require proposed sand mines within one mile of trout streams to obtain a permit from the DNR. Permit information can be found by clicking on the DNR link contained on the new silica sand website.

Because so many such waterways exist in Winona County, the bulk of the county would be covered by the one-mile setback that requires the new permit. However, the southwestern corner of the county, where sand deposits are near the surface and more easily accessible, appears to exist mostly outside of the trout stream permit radius, according to a map issued by the DNR.

The DNR is also charged with creating state rules pertaining to the reclamation of silica sand mines; those reclamation requirements can also be found on the DNR link contained within the new silica sand website.

The legislation passed this year directs the MPCA to create rules to regulate dust emissions from sand facilities, while the MDH must adopt health-based standards for air quality at mines and processing plants. The EQB has been directed to amend thresholds for the requirement of environmental studies of silica sand mining and processing project proposals.

Aside from the regulations being created by state agencies for the silica sand industry, the EQB will also assemble a “silica sand technical assistance team” that will provide local governments, when requested, with assistance on the development of sand ordinances, permitting requirements and monitoring standards.

The EQB is also expected to draft a set of model ordinances governing frac sand projects that can be used by local governments. It will also be required to maintain a library of reference materials regarding local ordinances for silica sand operations, as well as a log of local mine permits, by October 1, 2013. 


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